Florida has more timeshare properties than any other state in the nation. But now some state lawmakers are looking at restricting the options consumers have when they want to get out of a timeshare deal.
Members of the House Business and Professions Subcommittee heard from representatives in the timeshare industry, including both timeshare developers and the exit companies that help consumers sell or get out of these deals when life circumstances change.
The subcommittee conversation centered around a proposal being considered that would impose regulations and penalties on the companies that assist people when they want get out of these products. The exit companies contend that this bill is being pushed by timeshare developers to essentially legislate exit companies out of business, while timeshare developers argue tighter restrictions on exit companies are needed.
Timeshare contracts are typically complex. Many such contracts even contain “in perpetuity” clauses that can pass the fees and financial obligations from the original owner to their heirs after death.
According to a study by the University of Central Florida, 85 percent of timeshare owners who go to contract later regret their purchase. Those customers often hire exit companies that help them sell, trade, or even give away their timeshare.
Shannon Zetrouer, an attorney who represents consumers looking to get out of their timeshares, says many timeshare companies misrepresent the nature and characteristics of their timeshare products, trapping consumers in bad deals.
“The average timeshare consumer who is looking to retain [a timeshare exit company] is doing so because they either feel victimized by the developers’ high-pressure sales tactics at the point of sale,” Zetrouer said, “or perhaps they simply can no longer afford the contract or are unable to utilize their timeshare.”
Many lawmakers criticized these supposedly high-pressure sales tactics used by timeshare companies and shared personal anecdotes about their own timeshare experiences.
“I myself have sat through one of these presentations, and as an attorney, I found it to be a high-pressure situation,” said Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin. “A 90-minute presentation turned into a three-hour presentation.”
“I too owned a timeshare and had to go to bankruptcy to get out of it,” added Rep. Wengay Newton.
James Gamel with Wyndham Vacations, one of the largest timeshare developers in the industry, is a strong proponent of the legislation.
“It would provide consumers hopefully with better choices and more information to make the choices about hiring counsel,” said Gamel.
Gamel noted that Wyndham Vacations spends approximately 30-40 percent of product sales on marketing efforts to attract new timeshare customers.
While no vote was taken on HB 435 by Rep. Wyman Duggan, the bill has raised concern among some lawmakers about the necessity of this legislation.